It’s Fiesta Cultural time! Now in its second year, this Latino arts extravaganza—co-sponsored by the Lane Arts Council and the City of Eugene, and supported by a host of community organizations—is adding big spice to its usual September entertainment offerings.
“Events like this,” says Trevor Whitbread of Centro Latino Americano, “are an affirmation of Latino, or pan-American, identity—pieces of Caribbean, Mexican, or Central American and South American culture. But also, for people who are not Latino, the events offer enjoyable experiences that help them realize that immigrants bring assets to our community.”
Eugene’s First Friday ArtWalk will launch the Fiesta with a host of Latino arts–related events downtown that include a stage performance in Kesey Square featuring the hot Seattle salsa dance band Carlos Cascante y su Tumbao. A gallery show of local Latino paintings and graphic arts will kick off in the nearby Broadway Commerce Center; the centerpiece of the show will be the Living Threads exhibit by Oregon photographer Eric Mindling, featuring powerful images of the arts and culture of Oaxaca, Mexico.
Other art walks during September will add greater variety to the mix. For example, the South Willamette walk on the second Saturday—coordinated by Guatemalan sculptor and studio owner Marina Herrera—offers kid- and family-oriented afternoon activities like a mural painting event followed by an evening of Latino-flavored music and literature at multiple small business sites on outer Willamette Street.
But it doesn’t stop there! There’s also Latin dance, rope tricks, textile arts, pottery, and Flamenco guitar. Give an evening to the Springfield Art Walk. Or the one in Cottage Grove.Mark your calendar with special events at Eugene Library locations. Or drop in on the Cuba Ocho exhibition at the Schnitzer.
Hay tanto que ver y hacer! Check out lanearts.org for particulars and ongoing updates about Fiesta Cultural events.
Old digs, new digs
In 1876, state geologist Thomas Condon was hired as one of the first University of Oregon professors. He brought with him his extensive fossil collection.
Now, 140 years later, the Smithsonian-accredited UO Museum of Natural and Cultural History (MNCH)—which houses Condon’s collection—represents the best of its breed: an enviable collection of relics and artifacts; dynamic exhibits; an esteemed research division; and public outreach into classrooms across Oregon.
“We have a crazy array of talent here,” says Ann Craig, MNCH director of public programs. “Sculptors, illustrators, digital animators—and we get those kinds of brains collaborating with some of the best scientists in their fields. It’s that Eugene thing with people who are so talented, so skilled. All these people are bursting to do fun, smart things.”
However, if any feature of the MNCH has been a sore spot for museum staff in the recent past, it’s a lack of space to show off the museum’s huge assortment of items in its archeology and paleontology collections. That situation, however, is about to improve. Significantly!
Come early November, a year-long makeover of the museum’s south wing will be unveiled with the opening of an expanded and permanent cultural history exhibit headlined Oregon—Where Past is Present. The exhibit features fresh content, interactive displays, and greater accessibility. There’s also a brand new exhibit area devoted to Oregon’s Paisley Caves, where UO archeologists are exploring human remains, suggesting the site holds evidence of the earliest human inhabitants in North America.
In other words, Eugene MNCH-goers will soon get a grander vision of Oregon’s first peoples—not only in the past tense, but as living, growing, thriving, and very diverse cultures. Add that to the MNCH’s already impressive showcase of saber tooth salmon, Oregon dioramas, native plant gardens, North America’s largest meteorite, giant sloth remains, and, well. . . you’ll simply have to go check it all out!
Hallway bells chime out the first lunch period at Spencer Butte Middle School, and a small parade of about 12 students shuffles into a classroom designated as their special lunchtime space. Some students enter alone, others in groupings. All have come to spend their break visiting with their own, personal adult mentor.
Welcome to another session of the Lunchtime Mentors program.
It’s a familiar scene, mirrored every week in each of the eight middle schools across the 4J District. The program, run and staffed by volunteers, has been achieving remarkable successes over the past four years. Every middle school has a waiting list of students who want in on the action.
Students volunteer as program participants, often with expectations of simply finding a caring adult friend. The students might be toting a suitcase of loneliness or confusion or loss. Some might be struggling academically, or feeling bullied, or suffering a chaotic home life.
For the adult volunteers, mentoring is most often about satisfying a desire to connect with and support a young person.
Anne Bridgman is the founder and coordinator of Lunchtime Mentors. She is a powerhouse advocate for kids. Her enthusiasm for building and strengthening the Lunchtime program can be seen in her relentless mentor recruiting across the community. “One of my dreams is to not have waiting lists,” she says. But Bridgman has also been busy laying groundwork for volunteer mentoring in elementary schools and the potential expansion of the middle school model into other local school districts.
Bridgman acknowledges that a big part of what makes Lunchtime Mentors work is its collaboration with school staff and community members. However, the heart of most mentoring program successes, she says, is rooted in consistency and trust. “It’s really the coming in every week that helps the mentors build trust,” she says. “And it’s in building the trust that the relationships flourish.”
To volunteer as a Lunchtime Mentor or learn more about the program, go to 4j.lane.edu/hr/volunteers/middle-school-mentor-program.